“Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts” opens to Annie (Alison Brie) presenting her final during the last Anthropology class of the school year. Within the first 90 seconds of the episode, we find that Professor Duncan (John Oliver) is back on the sauce, drunk behind his desk, and encouraging his class to take shots with him, passing the entire class with A+’s (and subsequently taking a shot to that, as well). It’s not until the class is interrupted by Dean Pelton (Jim Rash), accompanied by an editor of Dean Magazine, that the plot really thickens with Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) going into labor.
In the midst of all of the chaos, Pierce (Chevy Chase) convinces Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi) to sell him the rights to their trademark handshake for $1000. This story arc, while minor in comparison to Shirley going into labor, brought about some great moments for Chase whilst not interfering with the main arc (Pierce assuming that the mere-mention of Betty Grabel would be handshake-worthy was incredible in-and-of itself). With the handshake now tarnished, Troy and Abed turn to Jeff (series’ lead Joel McHale) for guidance, only to get shot down due to Shirley’s water breaking. Thankfully, Community consistently remains true to continuity and this allows for Abed to “remind” everyone that he delivered a baby earlier in the school year. The joke here is when Troy asks where he was during this and Abed responds with the kicker, “off in the background somewhere” (which also brings us back to “Intro to Political Science” when Troy asks if Abed is constantly going on side-adventures).
With Abed now offering assurance to Shirley, and coaching Britta (Gillian Jacobs) through delivering the child, who may or may not have been fathered by Chang (Ken Jeong), the arc begins to focus much more on Shirley, Britta, and Chang than on the others, offering a welcome change, as the other characters often over-shadow the elder female group members, and Chang finally finds himself in a role that could help the group without hurting himself. After recovering from a few early set-backs, Britta steps up to the plate and delivers (literally), finally finding herself in a situation to appease her ever-present heroine-complex.
Chang’s role in all of this is not to be over looked, with Shirley requesting his presence to calm her down through the unfortunate experience of birthing her child in a classroom. Chang pacifies her with stories of the generations of “Chang babies” who were born under less-than-desired circumstances. When the child finally arrives, Shirley’s fears of having her very-own Chang baby have subsided and in honor of Chang’s being there for her throughout the labor, she names the child after him. Welcome Ben Bennett.
While Chang was great in this episode, Britta was the real star. On her A-game, she delivered a few great lines and her back-and-forths with Jeff were solid, as usual. That said, I really appreciate how Chang found redemption after playing the antagonist throughout the season. We’ve seen hints of this in the past, saving Annie’s anti-drug play and searching the school’s vents for Annie’s Boobs, and it was a nice resolution to have him be the one Shirley turns to in her time of crisis.
Speaking of redemption, before Pierce’s attempt to break the bond between Abed and Troy, he had a brief interaction with Vickie and Fat Neal, suggesting that they “just make out already” during the class’s final presentations. This was a subtle, but brilliant moment in that it was Pierce who took it upon himself to antagonize Fat Neal during “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons,” and it was also Pierce who made it his own personal goal to get Vickie to drop out from her student body president campaign. The two recurring characters also had a great line where they accused the study group of “always making it about them.”
Community is often at its best when there is a balance between its jokes and storylines, and “Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts” was a very plot-driven episode that allowed the humor to dictate the episode’s pace.
Other moments worth noting and quotes worth quoting:
Dean Pelton: “There are lunch trucks with 18 different nationalities of food. You know what? Not different. Equal to Whites. You know what? Better than Whites.”
Jeff: “What are you doing? Get in there.”
Britta: “Me? Forget it, I’m the worst.”
Jeff: “Yeah, that’s a discussion for a different time.”
Jeff: “Britta, there is something in you that wants to take care of people so bad that you’ll do it until you puke. That’s what Shirley needs right now.”
Britta: “Are you saying I’ll be a good mom?”
Jeff: “What? No. Man, you will really force anything, won’t you?”
Britta: “Abed, walk me through this.”
Abed: “OK, on each contraction you need to tell Shirley to push.”
Britta: “That’s it?”
Abed: “Well, don’t tell any doctors I said this but at this point in time the bus pretty much drives itself.”
EMT: “It’s OK mam, we can take it from here.”
Britta:”Guys, I got it. I’m in the zone.”
Britta: “Here it comes. It’s baby Greendale. You guys don’t have to name it that. I don’t claim that power, I’m merely the deliverer.”
Chang: “All Changs are born with tails. You kind of dodged a bullet there.”
Troy calling dibs on Demi Moore at the realization that Pierce is trying to “Indecent Proposal” him and Abed over their handshake.
Britta: “I just yanked a little dude out of my friend.”
The Dean finally gaining recognition, only to have the Dean Magazine canceled before he is featured in it.
The end tag was brilliant, with Troy and Abed blackmailing Dean Pelton into cancelling school for the day after they find out the school’s fire alarm is a prop.